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Why the São Paulo GP is a 'must win' race for Lewis Hamilton

(Carl De Souza/GETTY IMAGES)

By: Sam Donsig

After a not-so-close battle with Max Verstappen in the Mexico City Grand Prix, which saw Lewis Hamilton fighting more with Sergio Perez. It’s time to realize the importance of this weekend’s São Paulo Grand Prix. This is a must win race for Hamilton if he wants to keep things close with Max Verstappen in the drivers’ championship fight.

Now you’re probably sitting at home reading this, wondering. Why must Hamilton win the São Paulo Grand Prix? Before we dive into the specific mathematics of the situation. Let’s look back at the last few races and see where the tide started to turn against the seven-time world champion.

Looking back to the Turkish Grand Prix, which I believe will be a crucial turning point in this year’s title fight. Lewis Hamilton had changed his internal combustion engine (ICE), resulting in a 10-place grid penalty. The penalty ended up costing Hamilton a win, as he could only manage to finish fifth. This allowed his teammate Valtteri Bottas to win the race and more importantly, Verstappen was able to snag second place. This meant that Verstappen now had a six-point lead in the drivers’ championship heading into the United States Grand Prix.

Now, the Circuit of the Americas is known as a Mercedes dominant track. Many F1 fans were expecting Mercedes to dominate and have Lewis Hamilton retake the lead of the Drivers’ Championship. However, that wasn’t the case. Instead, Hamilton finished second with Verstappen coming home first place to extend his lead to 12 points.

Many expected Red Bull to extend their lead and dominate in Mexico. Other than a minor blip in qualifying, they had a near-perfect weekend. Verstappen got an excellent start to the race and a great tow from Valtteri Bottas. Which allowed him to sneak up the back of the Finn’s car and overtake him in turn one by hitting the brakes very late. From there on, Hamilton couldn’t keep up with Verstappen and spent most of his race fighting Sergio Perez. Verstappen cruised to Victory, with Hamilton coming off second best once again.

Now that you’re all caught up, it’s time to look ahead to the four remaining races and explain the specific mathematics of where things currently stand and how things might end up at the end of the season. Again, I have included an excellent little graphic to give you a visual understanding of the whole situation.

(Sam Donsig/TIS)

Now looking ahead to São Paulo this weekend, with Verstappen leading Hamilton by 19 points (312.5 - 293.5). Time is running out for Hamilton to retake the lead in the Drivers’ Championship fight. Now there’s a lot of different scenarios that one could look at. I decided to focus on race wins and the fastest lap. If Verstappen comes home at least second in Saturday’s sprint race. Then he wins on Sunday and gets the fastest lap. He would extend his lead to 26 (340.5 – 314.5) points over Hamilton. Granted, Hamilton wins the sprint race and finishes second place in Sunday’s race.

Flash forward to Qatar, even if Hamilton wins the race and gets the fastest lap. He would only cut Verstappen’s lead down to 18 (358.5 – 340.5) points. With Verstappen still having a comfortable advantage. Again in this scenario, Verstappen finishes second place and doesn’t get the fastest lap.

Looking ahead at Saudi Arabia, with Verstappen having an 18-point lead. Hamilton’s chances at the title are now really starting to look quite slim. If Verstappen finishes second place again, Hamilton takes the race win and fastest lap. However, Hamilton would still trail Verstappen by 10 (376.5 – 366.5) points.

At last, we’ve reached the final race of the 2021 Formula 1 season. Verstappen still leads by 10 points. Even if Hamilton wins and gets the fastest lap, scoring 26 points. Verstappen would still win the championship by two (394.5 – 392.5) points. Therefore, making Max Verstappen your 2021 drivers' world champion.

Of course, there are different situations where Perez or Bottas could take away the fastest point from either Verstappen or Hamilton. Regardless, Verstappen would still win the championship by four (393.5 – 389.5) points.

It's sufficient to say, that the São Paulo Grand Prix is a must-win for Lewis Hamilton, but if he doesn’t win in Brazil. He is going to have to hope that Verstappen struggles in the last three races. If he wants any hope at winning the drivers’ championship this year.


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